When confronted with a problem, the brain seeks an answer. Many brains in one room will argue over competing answers in hopes of reaching an understanding of which answer is best. This is how it is done. We solve problems through discussion and advocacy.
Examine breakthroughs and creative new approaches, however, and we learn that it is the questions — not the answers — that need to be debated most. Explore a well-known insight or innovation and you will usually learn the thinkers asked a different question. One that challenged the assumptions of the current thinking. Questions, not answers, are more important for creative problem solving.
Try this: the next time you or your team confronts a sticky problem, spend a few minutes brainstorming questions about the problem. Compile a good list without comment. Watch the energy in the room rise like mercury on a hot day. After the flurry of creativity, the group will conclude that the questions won’t be of equal value. One will stand out and compel the group to wrestle it to the ground through discussion and debate.
Brainstorming questions — not ideas, solutions or answers — is the secret to breakthrough problem-solving. A great question will guide the group to a great answer. For the toughest problems, the question matters more than the answer.